Every year during my childhood, Mom and Dad would pack up the car, pack up the kids, pack up the cooler with sandwiches, and head off on a road trip. Most often we went to Estes Park, Colorado, but I remember trips to Minnesota and Lake Okaboji, Iowa, as well. Six of us packed into a car. (“Mom, she’s looking at me!”)
Those vacations are some of the best memories of my life.
It’s why I’m amused when I hear young parents today say that they could never EVER take their kids on a car trip longer than a couple of hours. And nowadays they have full theater systems in the back seat! We had the alphabet game, guessing which side of the road the next feedlot would be on, and the license plate game to keep us amused. I’m sure our parents heard their share of “are we almost there’s?” And remember the old 55 mph speed limit? Yikes!
I recalled our past road trips this past week as Bec and I embarked on our own road trip – back to our old stomping grounds of Nebraska. Our travels took us a total of over 1,000 miles. The ride was much more comfortable than back in the day – we had air conditioning, for example. We had CDs to play on the radio, unlike our youthful trips where sometimes the best you could hope for was farm reports or an Indian station.
We talked a lot, but sometimes we just watched the corn fields sail past us as we flew down the road at the legal speed limit of 75 mph. We slowed down every 40 or 50 miles because of the evidently-mandatory construction cones (though we saw almost NO sign of any actual road construction). We took turns driving. Because they have had a lot of rain in the Midwest, the cornfields were bountiful and beautiful. I love to see the lush trees and other foliage that grow along the Platte River as it winds its way to where we were going, our hometown of Columbus, Nebraska. You can almost see the humidity in the air. And it smacks you in the face when you get out of the car to stretch.
I-80, which takes us the whole of the way through Nebraska, is rich with places to stop and spend your money. We roared past innumerable roadside attractions. Here are some of the things we could have seen, but opted not to stop…..
Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, Lexington
Boot Hill, Ogallala
Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, Kearney
Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland
Holy Family Shrine, Gretna
Sod House Museum, Gothenburg
Pony Express Museum, Gothenburg
Kool Aid Museum, Hastings
Pioneer Village, Minden
Largest Ball of Stamps, Boys Town
20th Century Veterans Memorial, North Platte
…..just to name a few.
We opted, instead, to keep on driving so as to spend our time visiting with our family who still remain in Nebraska.
Over the next few days, I’m going to tell you a bit about our week in the heartland. We gleaned a lot of information. We learned why we have some of the beliefs we have. We learned why we all have such a strong work ethic and an equally strong sense of musical rhythm. We learned why we focus on the weather more than most people. We learned why we like to eat what we like to eat. We learned some funny stories about our mom and dad.
But most of all we learned that growing up in the Midwest isn’t a bad thing at all. There’s no question about it. Nebraska is a great place from which to launch.